Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: Revenge is considered sweet, forgiveness is even sweeter.

Sometimes it's called sweet revenge. This report is from London. Janine Brooks was a dental student when a man ran into her car, totaled it, and drove away. That was ten years ago. Her damaged car resulted in a considerable financial burden on her student income but the motorist neither apologized nor ever paid for the damage he had done. Now it is 10 years later. Janine Brooks, the former student, is a dentist, and guess who comes to her office needing a tooth to be pulled. He did not recognize her; she did. She told him it wouldn't hurt: she lied. ("oh, you won't need Novocain for this!) Sweet revenge.

Another story about revenge... this took place in Broken Bow, Nebraska. A weary truck driver pulled his big rig into an all-night truck stop along the highway. He sat down at the counter and ordered a late dinner.

Just as the waitress served him, three mean-looking, scruffy, leather jacketed motorcyclists decided to give him a hard time. They began to verbally abuse him, calling him all kinds names. They came over to the counter and surrounded him. One grabbed the hamburger off his plate, another took a handful of his fries, and the third picked up his Coca Cola and began to drink it.

How would you respond? Well, this trucker didn't respond as you might expect. Instead, he let the bikers have their fun. When they got tired of harassing him, the trucker calmly got up off the stool, walked to the cash register, paid his bill, and went out the door.

The waitress felt sorry for him, so after she finished taking another order, she decided to follow him to say she was sorry for the way he had been treated by the bikers. But before she could get outside, the trucker had driven his big rig off down the highway.

When she walked back into the restaurant, one of the bikers said to her, "Well, he's not much of a man, is he?" She replied, "I don't know about that, but he sure ain't much of a truck driver. He just ran over the top of three motorcycles on his way out of the parking lot." Sweet Revenge.

Sweet revenge. Some of you are taking notes, aren't you? We can laugh about such acts of retaliation until they get out of hand. Then they are no longer funny. Somewhere, somehow, we need to learn how to break the cycle of hurt and revenge. We need to learn to forgive. It is the most adult act.

FORGIVENESS IS SERIOUS BUSINESS. If anyone has ever done you a serious wrong, you know how serious forgiveness is, how adult it is. Maybe you remember a heartbreaking scene in the movie FORREST GUMP. Jenny, one of the key characters, returns to her old home after her father has died. The old farm house is abandoned. As she thinks about the sexual abuse that she endured as a child, she is filled by rage and begins throwing rocks at the house. She violently throws them at the house. Finally, Jenny crumbles to the ground in tears. The scene ends with Forrest Gump philosophically saying, "Sometimes there just aren't enough rocks."

There never are enough rocks. If someone has abused you, lied about you, cheated you; if someone you loved has betrayed you, deserted you, destroyed you; if there is a place in your heart where there is an incredible resentment toward another human being, you may wish them dead, there just never enough rocks.

But, there is a problem... who really loses? S. I. McMillen wrote a book titled NONE OF THESE DISEASES, 40 years ago. What he wrote then is still true: he talked about the effects of unresolved anger and hatred on us: "The moment I start hating a man, I become his slave. I can't enjoy my work any more because he even controls my thoughts. My resentments produce too many stress hormones in my body and I become fatigued after only a few hours of work. The work I formerly enjoyed is now drudgery. Even vacations cease to give me pleasure . . . The man I hate hounds me wherever I go. ..When the waiter serves me steak with French fries, crisp salad, and strawberry shortcake smothered with ice cream, it might as well be stale bread and water. My teeth chew the food and I swallow it, but the man I hate will not permit me to enjoy it . . . I can't sleep... he whips my thoughts into such a frenzy that my innerspring mattress becomes a rack of torture." I must admit that the people I love receive the wrath meant for him...

Forgiveness is serious business. Forgiveness is the most adult act there is. It is essential to our mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health. How do we forgive? How do we let go of our hurts and resentments? I know only one way: WE ACKNOWLEDGE THAT WE OURSELVES HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN. Somehow when we acknowledge our own sinfulness and receive God's grace, we find it easier to forgive those who have wronged us.

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